International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight the achievements of women globally whilst also acknowledging the challenges they face in every area of society. As the world continues to push for a more sustainable future, gender equality remains a poignant human and social issue. It is important to acknowledge the vital link between gender, social equity and climate change, and recognise that without gender equality today, a sustainable future remains out of reach.
In light of this, Sustainability Voices spoke to experts across a number of industries about the need for more sustainable processes, as well as the role that women can play in facilitating a more sustainable future for businesses.
Making strides for Sustainability
In recent years sustainability has been at the forefront of strategy as businesses increasingly acknowledge their impact on the environment. However, Deborah Johnson, Head of Sustainability at Agilitas IT Solutions, feels that short-term action is not enough and claims that businesses must make a long-standing conscious effort to reduce their impact on the planet: “From offsetting carbon emissions to recycling resources, it all starts with businesses pledging a commitment to sustainability.”
Johnson goes on to describe how “businesses must move away from a traditional linear economy and instead look towards a system in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, maximise its value while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of its service life.”
Businesses are not alone in seeking more sustainable practices as Jessica St. John, RFID Project Manager at Nedap Retail, describes how growing concerns over climate change has created a shift in consumer behaviour. According to St. John, “Consumers are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to the impact that retailers and their supply chains have on the world, especially if this negatively affects the environment.”
St. John goes on to acknowledge the growing concerns around sustainability in the retail space.
“With millions of tons of clothes being sent to landfill each year, it’s become essential for retailers and brands to find ways to reduce the number of items being produced.” Describing how the implementation of RFID technology can lessen the environmental impact by improving accuracy and preventing additional stock, St. John adds: “If items aren’t selling, the amount being produced can be altered at the manufacturing stage to minimise the use of production materials and transport emissions.”
In line with this year’s Sustainability theme, Agilitas’ Johnson describes why it is important that women have equal space to contribute to the solution of climate change: “Gender equality needs to be addressed in companies’ sustainability agenda in order to attain long-term success as companies with an inclusive culture are six times more likely to be innovative, and twice as likely to hit or better financial targets.”
Encouraging Equality in All Sectors
According to the UN Environmental Programme, just a 10% increase of women in parliament would result in a 0.24% decrease in emissions per capita. These figures make it clear that women are uniquely placed to be changemakers and can do an incredible amount of work to confront climate change. However, more needs to be done to ensure that women are represented in the workplace and Evgenia Koutsouki, Editor of European Medical Journal, explains how International Women’s Day provokes global reflection.
“For me, International Women’s Day is a day of appreciation of the past struggles of the feminist movement, an opportunity for reassessing the present for women and, more importantly, a day for taking action to make the future world a better place.”
When contemplating the present landscape for women in STEM Carlyn Foster, Head Of Marketing at 4D Data Centres, addresses the current lack of female representation.
“According to a WISE report, from 2019-20, as little as 24% of the UK STEM workforce was made up of women.” Foster goes further and adds: “in order to prepare for a more equal and sustainable future, educational institutions have a responsibility to make sure the opportunity to study STEM subjects is both available and delivered in a way that is appealing and motivating to students from all backgrounds and genders.”
Although Foster recognises there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to address the lack of female representation, she counters that “acknowledging the problem is the first step to addressing the issue”. Furthermore, Koutsouki of European Medical Journal, feels that representation in the workplace needs to delve deeper into the root cause.
“Equal representation in the workplace starts with taking measures to address societal issues at the core: alleviating women from poverty and racial discrimination, enabling their access to healthcare and education, improving maternity rights, and providing equal opportunities for women and girls, are only a few.”
Progress for more female representation is certainly underway but it is evident we must look ahead to ensure that this continues. There must be more opportunities for women to be in influential positions as their voices can create a significant positive impact to the future of the planet.